Eric Hosmer - The Royals' first baseman finished Friday's game 1-for-4 with a run scored. I've written this about Eric Hosmer multiple times in the past two seasons - he's got to improve his balls in play distribution. After posting a GB rate of 49% in 2011, Hosmer's increased that mark to 52% this season, and it's killing his value. Add in a 16% LD rate and 30% FB rate and you can see why Hosmer's BA is under .200 and his SLG% is similar to Juan Pierre's. That said, a .194 BABIP isn't going to continue all season so I have confidence the BA will eventually rise and that should, in turn, mean more power. Hosmer tallied a solid .173 ISO in 2011, but that mark has fallen to just .139. There's not much of a trade market for a guy hitting under the Mendoza line, so Hosmer's owners have to just stick it out and hope the youngster turns things around soon.
Matt Joyce - The Rays' Matt Joyce connected for a grand slam off Jon Lester - a lefty - and finished 2-for-3 with 4 RBI on Friday. Joyce entered Friday with a .296 BA and .612 SLG% versus righties while owning just a .211 BA and .297 SLG% against southpaws, so the fact he hit a bomb and had two hits off a lefty is significant. Joyce has a solid 12% walk rate and his .268 ISO is obviously excellent. One area where I'm concerned is that Joyce is enjoying a .319 BABIP despite a 16% LD rate. If Joyce can't improve his LD rate, he's unlikely to maintain his current BABIP, so that .283 BA will fall closer to the .255-.265 range. Moving forward, I'm still only starting Joyce versus righties and expecting his BA to regress.
Kevin Youkilis - Against the Rays on Friday, Kevin Youkilis went 1-for-4 with 1 RBI and is now hitting .243/.313/.392 in 2012. After hitting .307 in 2010, Youkilis' BA dropped to just .258 a season ago despite a 20% LD rate and .296 BABIP. He was still able to maintain a .202 ISO and hit 17 HRs in 120 games. However, Youkilis' balls in play distribution has really changed this season. He's still maintaining a 20% LD rate, but his GB rate is up to 57% (compared to a 35% career rate). Youkilis' HR/FB rate is strong at 27%, but he's only hitting fly balls at a 22% clip, so there aren't as many chances for the ball to leave the yard. At 33-years old, it's reasonable for Youkilis to start slowing down, but I also can't imagine he's going to continue hitting nearly 60% of his balls in play on the ground. Expect positive regression here and for Youkilis to get his BA up around the .280 range by season's end to go along with 15-18 HRs.
Adam Jones - The Orioles seem set to extend outfielder Adam Jones for five to six years and roughly $80-$90 million, ensuring the rising star stays in Baltimore for the foreseeable future. Jones is off to an outstanding start this season by batting .310./.353/.594 after going 1-for-5 with 2 RBI against the Royals. Jones' ISO has jumped from .185 in 2011 to .283 this season while his HR/FB mark sits at a cool 26%. While his walk rate hasn't improved much (still around 5%), Jones' has improved his chase rate by 8% while maintaining his contact rate meaning he's likely connecting on better pitches. This change in his approach seems to have led to better power, although I doubt he can keep his current ISO or SLG% marks. Still, Jones looks like a good bet for 25-28 HRs and 20+ steals.
Jason Hammel - Jason Hammel battled the Royals on Friday evening and tossed six innings, struck out seven and allowed zero earned runs. He entered the outing with an impressive 3.10 xFIP to go along with an ERA of 3.12. The right hander has found success thanks to an improved whiff rate (up to 8.67 from 4.97 in 2011) and a huge boost in his GB rate (up to 57% from 43% in 2011). I noted this earlier in the season, but Hammel has added more than 1 mph to his fastball and is also getting batters to make contact on 10% fewer pitches outside the strike zone. Additionally, the overall contact rate against Hammel is down by 7%. So, it's clear Hammel is doing a much better job fooling batters and missing bats. I believe much of his current success is sustainable, so he's not an automatic sell-high candidate for me.
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